Title: To Catch a Thief - archived January 22, 2008
Author: Lacey McBain
"If any of the forty-seven serving staff or the two dozen security
personnel had been paying attention to something beyond the rattling of
ice and the filling of champagne glasses, they might have heard the
slightest thud, a sound clearly recognizable (to those in the know) as
a medium-sized grappling hook lodging in the casement of the northern
Warnings: Slash. Clark/Lex. Established relationship.
Vaguely future fic and blatantly ignoring show canon after S2. More or
less consistent with Shadows & Stone canon.
Notes: Written for
Nuala Nightbloom for the SV Gang's "Get a Clue, Merry Sue" Christmas
Exchange 2006. (Yes, that says 2006. Don't mock me!) So sorry it was
Prompts: Ballroom, Mustard, Poison / Flask.
Disclaimer: I don't own them, but if I did it would be Clark and Lex in
the Study with a Rope. If you know what I mean.
To Catch a Thief
moon was hanging in the sky over the Luthor mansion like a particularly
large opal, full and shimmering with an unreal light. On the second
floor, the ballroom was starting to fill with people, and through the
windows one could glimpse the satin sheen of cocktail dresses and the
understated elegance of tuxedos. If any of the forty-seven serving
staff or the two dozen security personnel had been paying attention to
something beyond the rattling of ice and the filling of champagne
glasses, they might have heard the slightest thud, a sound clearly
recognizable (to those in the know) as a medium-sized grappling hook
lodging in the casement of the northern tower. They might even have
glimpsed through the furthest ballroom window, a slender black-clad
figure moving nimbly up a rope towards the third floor bedrooms.
However, no one was paying attention.
stood in front of the open safe--Lex's private safe above the fireplace
in their bedroom–and reached for the small black velvet box. It was
about ten inches long; the kind of box that would hold a watch or a
bracelet. Or a woman's necklace.
He closed his eyes and tried to
push doubt from his mind. He and Lex had been together a long time now,
and there had to be a reasonable explanation. Perhaps it was a piece of
Lillian Luthor's jewelry Lex had kept separate from the collection on
loan to The Granville Museum of Rocks, Gemstones, and Precious Metals.
Of course, Clark had never seen the exhibit because of the high
quantity of meteor rock, but he'd supported Lex's decision to house the
jewelry there. It would be just like Lex to hang on to something for
sentimental value and not bother to say anything, Clark told himself.
growing apprehension and clumsy fingers, Clark opened the delicate
clasp on the box. Nestled against a pillow of black satin, lay a
necklace of white gold, set with shimmering opals. In the half-light of
the study, the stones shone pink and mauve. The necklace was beautiful,
and Clark was reasonably certain it was new. It didn't have the look of
something worn or loved. There wasn't a fingerprint marring its surface
Clark felt his breath catch in his throat. Why on
earth would Lex have bought something like that? And more importantly,
why was it stashed away in the safe where Clark never looked–except
that tonight he'd wanted to wear his father's cufflinks, and when he
couldn't find them in any of the usual places, he'd thought (naively,
apparently) that maybe Lex had put them in the safe for him.
heard Lex's footfall in the hallway and hurriedly closed the safe,
swinging the painting back into place, and super-speeding onto the
couch. He hoped Lex would assume the red tinge to his cheeks was from
the blazing fire, and not from guilt. Clark wasn't used to hiding
things from Lex anymore, and he didn't particularly like the feeling.
bedroom door swung open, and Lex stepped into the room looking like he
was born to wear a tuxedo. Clark's heart skipped a beat. Lex was
sophisticated and suave, easily the sexiest man Clark knew. Not for the
first time, he wondered if Lex had finally gotten bored with him. If
he'd found someone else. Someone who had breasts and liked opals.
what are you still doing up here?" Lex asked with a concerned smile.
"The party's downstairs." Clark shrugged and moved towards his partner,
cuffs hanging open awkwardly.
"My dad's cufflinks–"
here." Lex was already opening a drawer and extracting the cufflinks
from a royal blue box. He handed them to Clark, then surveyed him
carefully. "Is something wrong?"
"No," Clark said, eyes cast
down, fumbling with the cufflinks. Lex knew him entirely too well. "I
just wanted a minute's peace before the socializing begins."
be fine. You're an old hand at this now," Lex murmured, reaching out to
adjust Clark's bow tie. Clark remembered the first time Lex had done
that for him—the disastrous prom when Smallville had been hit by twin
tornadoes—and silently counted his blessings that he still had Lex in
his life. It could've gone either way. He'd been so stupid back then.
"Clark?" Lex touched his face gently. "Are you sure nothing's wrong?"
leaned into the touch and closed his eyes. "I'm fine." He pushed aside
the worries he was having, the questions about the necklace in the
safe. There had to be a perfectly reasonable explanation, and Lex would
tell him when the time was right. Clark was certain of it. Well, almost
"Why don't you go down and greet our guests?" Lex said,
one hand gently nudging Clark in the direction of the door. "I'll be
right behind you."
"What are you going to do?"
Lex gave a non-committal half-smile. "I want to make sure things in
here are secure. Alarms set and such."
our bedroom, Lex. Nobody's going to be up here." Clark searched Lex's
face for some tell-tale sign of infidelity, some measure of guilt, but
there was nothing.
"I know. But with so many people in and out
of the mansion tonight, you can never be too careful. Go on. I'll join
you in a minute."
Not being able to think of a reason to stay,
Clark nodded and left the bedroom. Only after he was in the hall did he
turn on his x-ray vision to see Lex checking the safe, admiring the
necklace Clark had discovered earlier, and carefully returning it to
its case. He watched Lex reset all the alarms before straightening his
tie and turning out the lights in the bedroom. Clark sped down the
stairs towards the ballroom, his heart beating loudly in his chest.
What was Lex up to? And why was he being so secretive about the
necklace in the safe?
black-clad figure balanced perfectly on the ledge outside Lex's
bedroom, practicing the Tree pose while she waited for Lex and his
tall, dark and handsome to finish their tender moment.
"Oh, please," she thought. "Spare me the melodrama."
switched to Crane Pose while she watched Lex unlock the safe, not
bothering to try to keep track of the numbers. There wasn't a safe she
couldn't open–best ears in the business–and it really would've been too
much like cheating if she'd paid closer attention. She liked a little
bit of a challenge, after all.
From the corner of the window, she could see Lex in profile. He was as
handsome as ever, she had to concede.
always did look good in a tux, Lex," she murmured softly, admiring the
lean lines of his body as he closed the safe once more, resetting its
alarms. "And out of it."
She waited until the lights dimmed and
the door to the master suite closed, then forced herself to breathe
deeply through another sixty count just to be sure there were no more
forgotten cufflinks or safety checks.
"Soon, Lex," she thought
flipping open the Prada leather bag slung across her shoulders. Her
gloved hands extracted what appeared to be a cosmetic case of some
kind, from which she pulled a set of lockpicks and a wire-cutter.
really love my job," she said softly to the night air as she snipped
the first red wire around the window pane. "This is going to be so much
"Just smile," Lex murmured in Clark's ear as he passed him a glass of
"You mean I can't just stand in the corner and hide?"
think Bruce beat you to it." Clark glanced towards the farthest corner
of the room, near the balcony, where a dark-haired man in a dark suit
was barely noticeable in the shadows.
Lex looked at Clark with
tolerant affection. "Besides, contrary to what you think, Clark, you
don't blend in with the wallpaper."
Clark snagged a crab puff off a circulating tray. "If I keep my mouth
full, maybe I won't say anything stupid."
worry about it. Just avoid political commentary, religious debate, and
all questions about LuthorCorp and you should be fine."
"Oh, is that all?"
be fine," Lex said again, kissing him quickly, and starting to slide
into the crowd. "And if you really can't stand it anymore, I'm sure you
can convince Bruce to create a memorable diversion."
perked up at that, but Lex was already gone, swept away in a tide of
black and white formal wear and the rustle of evening gowns.
"Fine, he says," Clark mumbled as he snagged a roll of proscuitto and
melon. "We'll see about that."
opals caught the firelight and Nuala couldn't help but smile. They were
gorgeous, nestled in their black satin bed, and they would only be more
beautiful draped against her skin. She loved opals. Her sources had
definitely been right about the latest Luthor acquisition, and as
always, she couldn't fault Lex on his taste. The necklace looked
exquisite, and she had it on good authority that it would've sold for
close to thirty thousand at a jeweler's. Not that Lex had gotten his
that way. No, she'd heard from her source in Suicide Slums, who'd heard
from that kid who was faster than lightning, who'd gotten it straight
from the guy Lex blackmailed, that the necklace was insurance. For
what, Nuala didn't know, but something that beautiful didn't deserve to
be locked in a safe. She had a responsibility to show it off to the
With practiced ease, she slipped out of her black silk
overalls, peeled off her gloves, and shook out her hair. From her bag,
she withdrew a small slip of fabric and stepped into it, adjusting the
shoulder straps so they showed off the curve of her shoulders, the
lightly tanned skin of her throat.
The perfect backdrop for a set of perfect opals.
a smile, Nuala gathered up her things, folded them neatly into her
handbag, and slipped on her pumps. She freshened up her lipstick, gave
her hair one last look, and then opened the door from Lex's bedroom and
descended down the staircase to the ballroom.
Halfway down, the
sound of a string quartet hit her. She handed her invitation to the
attractive man at the door, and said, "Don't you just love parties?"
smiled until his teeth hurt. He endured the gossipy whispers from the
usual debutantes privately laying bets on how long he and Lex would
last; he used only the slightest hint of super-speed to side-step the
widowed dowagers who found his ass a too-tempting proposition; and
was on his third glass of champagne when he caught sight of a striking
young woman with strawberry-blonde hair cascading around her shoulders.
She was wearing a low-cut black dress, exquisitely tailored, that clung
in all the right places, and high heels that made her almost as tall as
Oliver Queen, to whom she was talking. Around her neck lay a band of
white gold, set with opals that gleamed pink and mauve in the light.
let out a gasp. He turned to see if anyone else had noticed–if Lex had
noticed–but the party was in full swing. Lex was on the far side of the
room talking to LuthorCorp board members, and apparently oblivious to
the theft of the necklace. With a muttered curse, Clark began to make
his way across the room, figuring that at least now he'd find out the
story behind that damn troublesome necklace.
glared at him as only she could, with a perfect smile that never
faltered. Oliver didn't know whether to expect a laugh, a slap, or a
glass of champagne down his pants. He'd had experience with all three.
charming, Oliver," Nuala said, taking a casual sip from her champagne
glass and letting her eyes drop downward. Oliver took a pre-emptive
step back. "You haven't changed a bit."
"Neither have you."
Oliver sipped his drink. "I have to say, though, I'm surprised to see
you here. You're about the last person I expected to show up on the
guest list for a Luthor charity fund-raiser."
Nuala laughed, light and clear. "Don't be silly, Ollie. Guest list?
Those are for ordinary folks."
nodded. "Well, that makes sense. You never did things the easy way, did
you? Let me guess–Lex doesn't even know you're here, right?."
yet, but he will," she said, perfectly-manicured fingers idly stroking
the opal necklace she was wearing. "But tell me, who's the tall, dark
and handsome Lex has set-up house with? He's new."
"Not that new. You've been out of the country a long time."
tabs on me, Oliver? I'm flattered, but really there's not much to
tell." Nuala waved a slim hand in the air as if her travels were
nothing. "England was foggy, France was unbearably hot, and Monaco was
truly a bore."
"Funny," Oliver said, leaning closer. "That's not what I heard."
"Really?" Wide-eyed, Nuala looked positively shocked. "Do tell, Oliver.
You know I love a good bit of gossip."
"I heard the Victoria and Albert Museum lost a priceless silver tea
"–Le Louvre mislaid one of Marie Antoinette's favourite necklaces–"
"Quel dommage," Nuala interjected in perfect French.
Monaco's largest casino had an unfortunate run of bad luck. Apparently
they misplaced a rather large sum of money from their locked
state-of-the-art safe. Somewhere in the area of two hundred thousand."
heard it was closer to two-fifty, actually," Nuala said knowingly. "And
the safe really wasn't that state-of-the-art. So I heard."
"Uh-huh. So you see why I might be concerned at your sudden appearance
at one of Lex's parties. Uninvited."
"I had an invitation."
"You and I both know that doesn't mean you were invited."
practically purred. "I'm sure Lex would've been happy to invite me if
he'd known I was back in the country. I just saved him the bother. He
obviously has better things to do with his time than play ‘Where in the
World is Nuala Nightbloom?' Besides, is there anything wrong with
dropping by to see a few old friends? Several, in fact."
Oliver followed her gaze towards the darkest corner of the room. "Be
careful, Nu. Some people don't place nice."
"I'm always careful, Ollie. If I didn't know better, I'd almost say you
"I just like to know where my enemies are."
"Enemies?" Nuala laid a hand across her heart. "That's harsh, Oliver.
One little incident–"
"Where I got shot in the chest with my own arrow!" Oliver whispered
left that crossbow lying about; it was fair game. And honestly, what
did you expect me to do? You scared me half to death, swinging down
from the ceiling of the New York library like that–"
"You were stealing the rare book display!"
was a library–I was borrowing!" she said loudly enough to draw the
attention of the people nearby. She smiled politely and dropped her
voice. "Besides, I wasn't trying to hurt you. I thought anyone running
around at night in a green leather hoodie and codpiece should at least
have the good sense to invest in some body armour underneath it all!
God, if I hadn't shot you, the fashion police certainly would have!"
opened his mouth as if to speak, shook his head, and closed his mouth
again. Nuala looked at him with a satisfied smirk. There really wasn't
anything he could say when faced with the absolute truth of the matter.
tell me about that long tall drink of water," Nuala suggested. Her gaze
travelled across the room to where Lex's boyfriend seemed to be
managing to blush, stammer, and drop mustard from a cocktail weiner
onto his jacket all at the same time, much to the apparent delight of
the small circle of women who were trying to assist him in preventing a
"This one looks like a giant step-up from Lex's usual
male companions," Nuala said, seeing a bottle of club soda come into
play in the war against the mustard stain. The young man was beginning
to look as if he should be auditioning for a wet t-shirt contest, but
he was handling the attention with a rueful smile.
"I wouldn't recommend it, Nuala."
and dark without the brooding. I definitely approve." Two women were
now attempting to wrestle the poor guy out of his jacket without
appearing too anxious. They were failing miserably. "Seems like a
pleasant young man."
"Trust me. Just stay clear of Lex and Clark," Oliver warned, clearly
expecting his caution to be ignored.
"Clark." Nuala's voice rang with genuine delight. "How positively ...
clarkish! Really, wherever did Lex find him?"
believe he hit him with his car," a female voice said from just behind
Nuala's shoulder. She turned to see a buxom woman crammed into a sadly
besequinned hooker-red evening gown. "Lois Lane," the woman said,
thrusting her hand out and clearly expecting Nuala to shake it. Lois's
grip was firm and calloused, and Nuala could feel the warning in it all
the way up her arm.
"Charmed, Miss Lane." Nuala smiled at Oliver as she extracted her hand
from Lois's grasp. "She's with you, I presume, Ollie?"
"Yes, she is," Lois answered, smiling right back, showing all her
teeth. "Lois Lane. And you are?"
took over the introductions. "Lois, this is Nuala Nightbloom. She's an
old friend of Lex's. She went to Excelsior's sister school–"
"Sister Saint Ignatius Loyola of the Sacred Heart's Academy for Wayward
Girls," Nuala chimed in sincerely, cutting Oliver off.
With the Anne Klein dress and the Minolo blah-blah pumps, you don't
look much like the parochial school type," Lois said, giving Nuala the
once-over. "Wayward maybe, but–"
"Lois." Oliver could already see this wasn't going to end well.
"And I thought men in Kansas liked things organic, all-natural," Nuala
returned with a pointed glance at Lois's ample bosom.
was already holding Lois by the arm as Nuala dipped her head politely,
and neatly side-stepped Lois's clumsy swing. She slid easily into the
flow of people moving through the ballroom.
"So nice to meet you, Miss Lane," she called over her shoulder. "Ollie."
"Stay out of trouble, Nu," she heard Oliver say over the incoherent
sputtering of one Lois Lane.
always do." Nuala snagged a fresh glass of champagne from one of the
circulating waiters, ignoring the angry voices she could hear from the
corner she'd just left. She turned to the dark-haired woman standing
silently beside her and said, "Great party, don't you think?"
"It is not New Year's in Versailles, but it will do."
"So, how do you know Lex?"
woman turned slightly and raised an eyebrow. "I am Blandine. I am Lex's
cousin on his mother's side. From France," she said, with a discernible
"Really? I couldn't tell."
looked pleased. "I am not surprised. You see, in my work it is
necessary for me to be able to blend in wherever I go. I am proficient
in fifteen languages, most of them dead."
"Were they dead before you got to them?" Nuala asked.
was a moment of silence between the two women and then Blandine
laughed, her blue eyes lighting up. "Ha! I could snap your bones like
twigs, but I like you," she said. "So far, you amuse me."
"So far, so good then. You're Lex's cousin, you said?"
This is my card." Blandine withdrew a black rectangle from some hidden
pocket of her black pantsuit. In small white script was inscribed
"Blandine" and an international phone number.
"Le Cinq Bureau est toujours elegante."
"The Fifth Office? What happened to the other four?" Nuala asked
first three were destroyed; I am not at liberty to discuss the details.
The fourth one simply disappeared. Now there is the fifth."
"So, is that like–"
Blandine silenced her with a glance. "If I told you exactly what it is,
then I would have to kill you."
Nuala was taken slightly aback, but Blandine didn't appear to be
joking. "We wouldn't want that."
I promised Lex I would be vigilant, but I believe he would strenuously
object to the sudden but entirely necessary silencing of one of his
Nuala tucked the card swiftly into her bag letting it
fall between her lockpicks and her favourite pen. Blandine's eyes
enlivened with something akin to joy.
"I see you're using a Mont Blanc. Might I be so bold as to inquire if
you are aware of the additional attachments?"
"You mean like extra ink cartridges?"
laughed, low and a little bit scary. "Non, I mean like extra bullets.
Let me show you." She put her hand on Nuala's arm and waved for the
waiter to bring another round of champagne.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Mr. Luthor."
turned towards the man who was typically handling the door at these
functions. He took a sip of his champagne while he searched his memory
for the name.
"Yes, Craig, what is it?"
"Well, I normally
wouldn't bother you with something like this, but Lacey's in the
kitchen mediating a crab puff crisis, and that's already after she
diverted the fire department to the kitchen door rather than through
the front of the mansion–"
Lex hid his smile behind the lip of
his glass. He wouldn't want to be the chefs on the receiving end of Ms.
McBain's "mediation." She ran a tight ship when she planned a party for
him. Lex figured he didn't even have an inkling of the crises she
averted with her clipboard, Swiss Army knife, and her sheaf of
"–and an extra guest really isn't an issue except we've already had to
redirect one sentient sea-green space-faring cephalopod–"
"Private Tentacle?" Lex asked with surprise, referring to one of the
newer members of the Justice League.
you know her? Well, she's really very striking with the varying shades
of green and the flowing tentacles, and the Justice League Newcomers'
Bash is in Metropolis tonight, but honestly, Smallville's not
that close and for a super-hero her sense of direction is a little–"
Anyway, we've got an extra guest, this one without tentacles. I mean, I
didn't check-that would be highly inappropriate–and I suppose it's
entirely possible given the propensity for strange things that happen
around here that she could have her own private tentacle of sorts,
"–it means she hasn't been cleared by
security. Yes, she's talking to your cousin Blandine, so I figure
that's pretty much as good as going through security, but–"
"Take a breath, Craig."
paused for a short breath, then dove back in. "But although she had an
invitation, she wasn't on the Master List–and you know how particular
Lacey is about the lists–my God, that time she thought she'd lost the
Master List, well, let's just say, I've never seen the Teamsters cry
"Craig! Focus. We've got an extra guest?"
yes, but she had an invitation. Only the paper wasn't the thirty-two
pound bond Lacey prefers and the gold edging was already flaking, which
indicates a lesser quality than what we requested, and so–"
"Yes?" Lex had the impression he was talking to a wound up toy that was
about to explode any moment.
we have a serious problem with the paper supplier and the printers, or
much less alarming, we've got one guest with a forgery."
only a moment to think about Craig's sense of priorities before he
asked: "Is she an attractive strawberry blonde probably wearing a
little black dress and a set of stunning opals?"
Craig opened his mouth and closed it again. He nodded briskly. "Yes.
And Minolo Blanek pumps too, if I'm not mistaken."
Lex raised an eyebrow.
have a lot of female friends! And, oh my God, I just realized they're
serving calamari at the Justice League party. I've got to talk to
Lacey." Craig started to leave, then stopped. "So, you know our extra
"She's an old friend. I've been expecting her to show up."
"But she wasn't on the Master List," Craig said with dismay.
oversight on my part." Lex steered Craig back towards the ballroom's
entrance. "Her invitation wasn't part of the regular stock."
"Oh, thank God." Craig's relief was apparent. "I was not
looking forward to telling Lacey there was a problem with the
that, Craig seemed reassured and hustled off to attend to the hundred
small details of a function like this–things Lex preferred to pay other
people to take care of. He sipped his champagne and glanced around the
room looking for the tell-tale shine of opals.
white shirt was just beginning to dry after his dousing with the bottle
of soda. The mustard stain was still visible and Clark decided he was
just going to have to send this one to the cleaner's after the party.
It wouldn't be the first time.
He had managed to extricate
himself from the overly helpful group of women only to find himself set
upon by a ranting Lois spouting off about some little trollop from
"Lois!" Clark tried to get her to listen. "Do you know who she is? Does
Oliver know her?"
he knows her alright." Lois glared in the direction of the punch bowl
where Clark could see Oliver give a friendly wave. He waved back. "She
went to the girls school just down the hill from Excelsior, apparently.
Ha! I'll bet the path between those two schools was a well-worn road."
think–" Clark blushed. He didn't remember Lex mentioning a girls'
school, but then again, Lex often didn't mention things until they came
up. Unfortunately, they usually came up when someone was trying to kill
him and then Lex was forced to explain about a former psycho girlfriend
with an axe collection, or a disgruntled computer genius with all the
pass codes to the mansion. Clark sighed. He really wished they could
have these discussions before the crazies showed up at their home. He
sometimes wondered how normal people communicated about these things,
or if they just waited until the meteor-infected romantically-obsessed
pyromaniacs kicked in their door too.
"Clark." Lois snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Earth to
Lois." Clark didn't mean for it to sound patronizing, but it obviously
came out that way because Lois's mouth became a thin red line and she
stood with her hands on her hips.
"I wouldn't be looking too confident if I were you, Smallville. Lex
isn't exactly known for his chaste and virtuous youth."
paled and Lois flushed red. Oliver arrived at that moment, a glass of
punch in each hand, and said, "Hey, Clark. Great party."
Lois looked genuinely apologetic as she laid a hand on Clark's arm.
"Not that I think–I mean, I'm sure he and Nuala didn't–"
"I have to go talk to Lex," Clark said, shaking off Lois's hand.
was that about?" he could hear Oliver saying behind him. There was the
sound of something wet, like a drink splashing against flesh, and then
Oliver was sputtering, "What was that for?"
"Men!" Lois huffed
in the background, and Clark's inside voice, which sounded remarkably
like an aging Aretha Franklin, mentally added, "You tell him, sister!"
Having temporarily lost sight of the opal thief, whose name was
apparently Nuala, Clark made his way towards the corner where he'd last
seen Bruce lurking. Maybe he could find some answers there.
he threaded his way among the dancers and small knots of party-goers,
Clark had to admit that even to him going to Bruce for answers seemed a
little desperate, but he honestly wasn't ready to ask Lex what was
going on. He wanted more information before he opened up Pandora's box.
He had a feeling it was hiding much more than a stunning set of opals.
just like a chicken, you say?" Nuala asked, skeptically. It's not that
she doubted Blandine's experience in the matter, it just sounded a
little too easy.
"Same principle, but as with anything it is
best if the ... how do you say ... victim is unconscious at the time. A
small voltage stun gun or tazer will do the job adequately."
Nuala shook her head admiringly. "Blandine, you're just full of useful
you. I was a librarian before I was recruited. Mine was the most silent
library of them all," she said with a look of pride.
"I have no
doubt." Nuala dabbed the crumbs from her lips with the edge of a linen
handkerchief. "So when do you head back to France?"
"In a fortnight. I am returning by sheep," Blandine said, her accent
getting noticeably heavier as the evening wore on.
"You mean by ship?"
"That is what I said," Blandine replied softly, her face slightly
menacing in the shadows of the room.
course." Nuala smiled graciously. "Well, it's been delightful talking
to you, but I see someone I really must catch up with."
nuit," Blandine said as she watched Nuala head in the direction of the
buffet table. From among the shadows, a dark figure followed her every
movement with his dark gaze. When he caught Blandine watching him, he
gave a collegial nod, which she returned.
"Very interesting," she said, and settled back to watch.
Nuala caught the movement to her left just as she reached the end of
the buffet. "Bruce, so good to–"
found herself with a hand over her mouth, being hustled onto the
balcony and away from the crowded ballroom. She looked up into the
stony face of Gotham's favorite son, Bruce Wayne, looking less than
pleased to see her.
"Why, Bruce, I–"
"I should throw you off this balcony after what you pulled in Gotham."
His eyes were as dark as the night.
"Oh, come on, you're still mad about that?"
His voice was steel. "You poisoned me."
"It was an accident! I was trying to poison Lex."
"That's supposed to make it all right?"
"Well, no, but honestly, Bruce, haven't there been times when we've all
wanted to poison Lex? Seriously. You know it's true."
scowled and gave a sort of low grunt that Nuala took for agreement. She
slipped her arm through Bruce's and settled back against the stone
railing. "Now tell me, how are things in Gotham? I hardly ever get up
that way anymore."
"What with the arrest warrants and the shoot-on-sight directives."
we always talk business? Really, there's more to life, you know. In
fact, I know a lovely girl in Gotham. Black leather, acrobatic, always
brings a whip to a gun fight. Just your sort. You do like cats, don't
you? Let me give you her number..."
progression through the crowded room was stopped by a pert young woman
with a huge smile on her face and a crown of curly blonde hair piled
high on her head.
"Obscura," Clark said, trying to catch where
Bruce had disappeared to. He'd been there a moment ago, lurking behind
the pillar beside the buffet table, and now he was gone. Clark glimpsed
the movement of the balcony door closing.
"Oh, Clark, you're going to be thrilled. I haven't even had a chance to
tell Lex, but I have to tell somebody!"
"What is it?" The usually outgoing head of Lex's publishing division
was grinning from ear-to-ear.
"We got the contract to do the script for the Warrior Angel movie.
It'll be filmed right here in Smallville!"
terrific," Clark said with genuine happiness. He'd known it was
something the publishing division had been campaigning for, but he'd
had no idea it was close to being settled. "Lex is going to be over the
moon about that."
"I know," Obscura agreed. "He's such a huge
fan–well, we all are–but I know Lex will be thrilled." Having shared
her good news, Obscura seemed to have lost some of the frenetic energy
that had driven her across the room towards Clark. "I know I was just
bursting to tell someone, but I'd like to tell Lex myself. Don't spoil
the surprise, okay?"
"It'll be our secret. I promise," Clark
said sincerely, and snagged two glasses of champagne off the passing
tray. "To Warrior Angel," he said lifting his glass and handing her the
"To Warrior Angel." Obscura lifted her own glass and
drank, her smile more effervescent than the champagne. Clark wished all
of the secrets he and Lex were keeping were as innocent as this one,
but he couldn't quite bring himself to believe it.
surveyed the room from beside the entrance. Craig was masterfully
directing traffic in and out, steering people towards the necessary
facilities, and handling wraps and coats with a speed that Lex had
previously only seen in sentient space-faring cephalopods. He hoped
Private Tentacle found the Metropolis party alright. He knew it was
simply an illusion caused by the curvature of the earth, but honestly,
there were days when Metropolis seemed right around the corner and days
when it seemed at least a three hour drive. It was odd.
caught a glimpse of Clark talking with Obscura and wondered why his
publishing head was practically bouncing up and down. No doubt he'd
hear her news shortly. His cousin Blandine was expertly sabering open a
bottle of champagne, much to the delight of the small group of admirers
gathered around her, and his party planner, Lacey, was apparently
filling in while the cellist was in the bathroom. As one of the
Brandenburg Variations floated through the air, Lex had to admit she
sounded like a pro–he hadn't known she knew how to play.
wondered briefly why Oliver was wiping his face with a handkerchief,
and why the front of his tux was the colour of the punch. Lois had dark
rings around her eyes like a raccoon, and she glared at Lex menacingly
as she strutted past. Lex took a step back and stayed out of the way.
He could just make out a familiar dark shape on a corner of the balcony
and what might have been a particular thief with a love of opals. Or it
could've been the moon. He was too far away to tell for sure.
burst onto the balcony, the cool night air a refreshing change from the
ballroom inside. He saw Bruce leaning in the corner.
"Did you get her?"
"The thief!" Clark looked around as if Bruce might be hiding the woman
somewhere on the very open balcony.
"Something's been stolen?"
The opal necklace she was wearing. You had to have seen it! It's the
same one that Lex was hiding in the ..." Clark cut himself off as Bruce
raised an eyebrow.
"Hiding where, Clark?"
tables were turned, and Clark felt his face grow uncomfortably warm.
"Um. He wasn't exactly hiding it. It was in the bedroom safe, our
"But you didn't know about the necklace, correct?"
leaned on the stone railing and looked down to the shrubbery two floors
below. He shook his head. Bruce came to stand beside him.
"You know who she is?" Clark asked.
Bruce gave a non-committal grunt. "She's not exactly harmless, but I
wouldn't consider her a threat either."
me if I don't find that assessment entirely comforting, Bruce. She
waltzed in here, stole a priceless opal necklace, and is walking around
like she owns the place."
"Have you asked Lex about it?"
shook his head. Of course, he hadn't. He was still afraid of what the
answer might be. Lex was obviously playing some kind of game, and Clark
didn't have any idea what was going on or what the rules were. He felt
... left out.
"Clark, you have to remember that Lex had a life before you met him. A
rather complicated life."
"I get that. I just don't get why he's still playing games with old
Bruce chuckled. "Old flames? Ironic when you consider she almost set
him on fire once."
a long story involving dorm rooms and illegal hot plates. Anyway, the
point is, what he and Nuala had was pretty innocent considering Lex's
history. I wouldn't worry about it, Clark. I really wouldn't."
didn't want to feel reassured, but he did. Bruce wasn't the type of
person to try to cushion the blow of cold hard truth, so if he said the
relationship was nothing to worry about, it was probably true. Still,
Clark couldn't shake the feeling that Lex was keeping secrets from him,
even after all this time.
"Trust me, Clark. Just let it go.
It'll all play out before the evening's done, and then, I'm sure, Lex
will tell you whatever you want to know. Trust him."
was a brief squeeze on his shoulder, and then Bruce was gone. Clark
didn't even hear the balcony door open and close, but what he did hear
was the faint scrape of a window opening somewhere up above. Without a
second's hesitation, he turned and ran back into the ballroom, took the
nearest exit, and headed for the bedroom.
When Clark pushed open the bedroom door the last thing he expected to
see was the naked back of a beautiful woman.
"Uh!" He immediately turned around. "I'm sorry. I didn't know–" He
could hear the shifting of fabric behind him.
"Really, haven't you learned to knock? Were you raised in a barn?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't know anyone was– " Clark stopped. "Hey, this is my
bedroom. Why am I apologizing to you?"
"Are you Canadian?" the woman asked with a smirk in her voice. "You can
turn around now."
did and he could see Nuala was fully-clothed in a skintight set of
black overalls, the opal necklace still visible at her throat.
"That doesn't belong to you."
"It doesn't belong to you either, and I doubt very much that Lex would
want this little incident reported to the authorities."
Clark froze and thought that through. "Are you suggesting–?"
billionaire doesn't change his Armani, kid. I'm sure you believe Lex is
totally on the up and up, but I think I know otherwise. I have it on
good authority these are ill-gotten goods, although as blackmail money
goes, they're lovely."
"No, you're wrong." Clark knew that Lex
could walk the moral edge when pushed, but he refused to believe that
Lex would be involved in something illegal..
"Look at it this way. I'm just getting rid of the evidence for you."
"You're a regular saint," Clark said sarcastically.
"Well, I wouldn't go that far."
they'd been talking, Nuala had edged closer to the open window. With
one graceful movement reminiscent of a panther, she was onto the sill
and through the window. Clark let out a startled gasp, and she leaned
back in with a smile.
"Do give my very best to, Lex." She blew
Clark a kiss and disappeared into the night leaving Clark standing
there with his mouth open in astonishment.
"She's quite something, isn't she?" Clark turned to see Lex leaning in
"She's a thief, Lex!"
"And a very good one."
"Lex, she stole that necklace. How can you just–"
an old friend." Lex walked into the bedroom and shut the door behind
him. Clark figured it was for the best since this was likely to be one
of those conversations and they didn't need three hundred
guests hearing them argue.
"An old friend? Right. And by ‘friend,' you mean ‘lover,' of course."
laughed and shook his head. "We were pretty young. I don't think the
term really applies, but on the bright side, she's one of the few who's
never tried to kill me. Well, there was that once, but I don't think
she was serious."
Clark crossed his arms over his chest. He
refused to let this go so easily. "So she was part of the illustrious
diamond earring club?"
"No, Nuala was before all that frivolity. Actually, I think she was
kind of pissed off about the lack of diamond earrings."
"Well, she seems to be making up for it with opals." Clark couldn't
hide the anger in his voice.
Lex just grinned and looked towards the window. "Yes, she does, doesn't
"Lex, why would you ... she said you were ..." Clark through up his
hands in frustration. "I don't know what to think anymore."
stepped forward, looking serious, and laid a hand on Clark's arm. "I
was going to tell you about this. Honestly, but I wasn't sure if
anything was going to happen. The necklace only arrived from Metropolis
when the party planners got here. You can check with Lacey, if you
"You mean it's not some kind of blood money payoff?"
Lex laughed. "No, Clark. I swear I paid retail, just like everybody
else. I've even got the receipt."
Clark's brow furrowed in confusion. "Then what was this all about? And
she still stole the necklace from you."
"It's a bit of a long story, Clark. Why don't we go back to the party
and I'll tell you all about it."
reached for Clark's hand and pulled him into a gentle hug. Clark slid
his arms around Lex and let out a breath. Like Bruce said, he was
apparently going to have to trust Lex on this one.
party was still going strong when Lex slipped onto the rooftop of the
mansion. He made a direct line for the slim dark figure standing at the
"I wasn't sure if you'd be sticking around," he said.
"I'm waiting for my ride," Nuala replied.
"Well, I'll keep you company while you wait."
There was a pause where the only sound was the honk of a lone Canadian
goose flying overhead.
"Ha, ha. Seriously, Lex, what are you doing up here? If you want me to
"No, you stole them fair and square. I just came to see if you had a
always do." In the cool night air, Nuala shivered. Lex slipped off his
tuxedo jacket and slipped it around her shoulders. "Opals are my
favourite, you know."
"And it just happens to be my birthday today."
Lex tried to look surprised. "Really? I'll have to mark that in my PDA
for future reference. Twenty-nine, right?"
"From here on out," she said with a sigh, edging a little closer so
that she and Lex's sides were pressed against one another.
"Well, you still look beautiful. Certainly enough to make Clark more
than a little crazy for a few hours."
Nuala smiled. "He's rather beautiful himself. You've got good taste,
"I'll be sure to let Clark know you approve."
Nuala leaned her head lightly on Lex's shoulder. "It was a great
evening. It was good to be back, to see old friends."
"I'm glad you had fun."
"And I know about the opals, Lex. Lightning Boy isn't nearly as good an
actor as he likes to think."
"I don't know what you mean, Nu."
Nuala smiled. "Okay. If that's the way you want to play it."
"Besides," Lex said. "You like me better when you think I'm still a bit
of a scoundrel. Admit it."
"It's true. The straight-and-narrow path isn't nearly as interesting."
nearly as straight either," Lex said with a chuckle and slipped an arm
around Nuala's waist just as something in her purse started beeping.
She hurriedly slipped out of Lex's jacket and handed it back to him,
planting a kiss on his cheek.
"That's my ride," she said as she
withdrew something from her purse. It was a small flare gun and when
she pressed a button on the side, a suction cup-like appendage expanded
at the end of the barrel. She turned and shot into the air just as a
dark shape passed over head. Lex heard the suction cup attach and
watched as Nuala neatly fastened the grapples cord to a harness overtop
of her jumpsuit.
"Thanks, Lex. It really was a wonderful birthday, but I've got to go.
Lex shook his head. "If that thing scratches the paint on the
Bat-Plane, he's going to kill you, you know?"
"I know," Nuala said as she began to lift up into the air. "But what's
life without a little danger! Bye, Lex!"
"Bye!" he called as she disappeared into the night.
"She gone?" Clark asked, stepping from the shadows.
"If she scratches the paint on that thing, Bruce is going to–"
he is." Lex slipped his jacket back on and reached for Clark's warm
hand. "Let's say we get back to the party. I hear we've got a few
things to celebrate."
Clark closed the distance between them and
wrapped his arms around Lex. "Let's say we give the party a miss and
celebrate on our own." He leaned in and kissed Lex deeply. In the sky
behind them, the moon glinted against the night, a perfect opal nestled
in a black velvet box.
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